Visual Artist, Creative Director and Stylist, Aoife graduated from NCAD Fine Art Media in 2016. She is going from strength to strength with her piece LIMITLESS exhibited nationally and internationally from London to the US.
You describe yourself as a visual artist, creative director and stylist, do you think it’s necessary to have ‘many strings to your bow’?
That’s a good question! In the creative industry most artists have a very broad range of interests and naturally their creativity flows from one curiosity to the next. I feel achieving distinction in more than one genre is intellectually stimulating and very rewarding. I’m not sure if I feel it is necessary, but investing more time in developing your practice in a multitude of ways results in a concrete understanding of who you are and what it is you do best.
For me it seems your social media acts as an extension of your work. Do you believe your work is affected by the pressure to upkeep the marketing aspect that exists for freelance creatives today?
I feel social media has affected my work in a very positive way but I definitely feel pressured to present not only my work but my lifestyle or process online. The most successful creative entrepreneurs are those that create experiences rather than products or who create experiences (relationships, environments) around their products. It is crucial to maintain a strong online presence as no artist creates in a vacuum but more importantly, your energy should largely be directed at making physical work. There are too many ‘instagram’ creatives with a huge following and nothing to show for it. 100,000 hours exceeds 100k contacts.
You’ve worked and exhibited abroad from New York to London to Berlin How does Ireland’s art and culture scene compare?
I don’t think I can accurately answer this question as I have exhibited more abroad than I have in Ireland. I feel the work I make is welcomed and appreciated in the likes of London, NY etc compared to Ireland which I feel is still progressing, slowly!
What are the pressures for a freelance creative in the current industry?
Cost is the primary pressure for any freelance creative. With freelancing comes uncertainty and sacrifice – you need a mind-set that embraces instability, that tolerates recalibrating and assumptions. I have become very withdrawn within the last five years to focus solely on my career as freelancing is hugely time consuming. Pursing art full time is a tremendous challenge.
Do you find the line between entrepreneur and visual artist is blurred? If so how do you strike the balance?
I have realised recently that my art career is a business. The main difference being that I am not money driven and it is an audience I am addressing; not a customer base. My success is personally measured from the satisfaction of creating work that is unique, innovative and inspiring. This also links in with the first question about versatility – Like any good business, you try to diversify.
Do you prefer to work independently or collaboratively?
I’ve collaborated a lot throughout my career and have thoroughly enjoyed it! Creative collaboration can be a powerful experience, by working together unique opportunities arise for fusing style and stretching your creative abilities. It allows you to not only branch out, but to establish new relationships – It is a vital part in developing your own practice and a brilliant way to push boundaries. Having said that, I much prefer to work independently – I am extremely headstrong!
Do you have any advice or recommendations for people up and coming in the industry?
To be successful at most things requires a focus and a singleness of purpose. Life as an aspiring artist is an ongoing cycle of criticism, self-doubt, and cutthroat competitiveness and to excel in this industry your passion has to be at the core of what you do. I still have an extensive amount to learn but my honest advice would be to work exceptionally hard, be ambitious, take risks and be proud.
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Founder and Director of projects such as BodyTonic, The Bernard Shaw, and The Locals, John is an expert when it comes to merging event management and creativity to pave out a career in the creative industry.
Tell us a bit about your background creative or otherwise:
I was part of Body Tonic from day 1, in 2002 I met a guy called Trevor O’Shea we realised we had the same goals and ambitions so started collaborating on club nights which did very well. We made it to better venues which led to the likes of Electric Picnic which led to the Bernard shaw as a venue. Bernard shaw was my baby from day 1. I set it up and ran it for 8 years until I left end of 2014, then set up The Locals. So I’ve done a lot of things along the music festival and events route.
What inspired The Locals?
Couple of reasons biggest being what I really enjoy doing is finding and discovering what I think are world class creators and innovators in Dublin. I want to give these guys a platform that shows off what I think is the best part of what they do. Ultimately you could have jaded dubs looking at it or out of towners/tourists looking at it both of them going theres some cool shit going on in Dublin.
In your opinion what are the key roles to set up a business in the creative industry?
Creative industry is just industry full stop, it depends what your goals are. The Locals is a fairly shoestring operation it doesn’t take much to run it other than time to produce articles but as it grows it will need contributors. Depending on how much it grows it would need people with different roles but ultimately it just needs money. It has to be a business like any other it has to generate money has to pay people. It’s probably the same answer as asking somebody what it takes to have a car rental company; cash is the answer basically, cash and energy.
Do you think its important to do a bit of everything in order to keep up with the fast paced nature of the industry?
Yes. Im very hands on and I like to get involved in things and like to know how things work, things that are not my number one area of skill or focus I want to know enough to know if its been done well or otherwise. For example if you’re running an event theres so much to think about, people staff, food, drink, venues, security, lights, sound and I think when you’re running those things you’re at a disadvantage if you don’t know if the lighting has been done well or not done well.
They’re all part of one eco-system so I think you need an instinctive understanding of whats good and bad in each department.
What do you think is lacking from the art and culture scene in Ireland right now?
When talking about artists and creatives you need a space to do it, those spaces are just gone they’ve evaporated, people have left, emigrated, thats a chronic problem. If you remove the spaces where these things can be generated or happen, where people can meet etc. Its made it depressingly difficult for people to get a foothold into any kind of art space. People are still around but they’re spread out there’s no nucleus to it and thats vital for any scene in any field to develop.
Any advice for people trying to break into the industry?
Just do it. Work hard, keep moving, if you believe it just get out there and do it, even if you don’t think you’re good enough or people will laugh at you, regardless, just do it.
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Currently doing an MFA in NCAD Elaine is founder of the Talbot Gallery and Studios and the Most Promising Graduate Award, her aim is to support and nurture upcoming artists and give them a space to develop, document and grow.
What’s your background creative or otherwise?
I studied Fine Art Paint in Galway, only did a year then went to IADT and studied design, I was the messy one in the corner while everyone else was on computers, I had no interest in entering the advertising agency world, so went travelling, waitressed, came back and set up a restaurant it was something that incorporated all my interests, food design, working with people and running my own business. After my first child was born, I had to weigh up the work life balance. As the restaurant wasn’t making enough for me to step aside I decided to close it. I had made some paintings for the restaurant and has started to get commissions thats was when I began edging towards the idea of getting back into making work.
How did the Talbot Gallery and Studios come to be?
I was fortunate enough to be able to set up a studio on Talbot Street and at that time in my life I felt I needed to aim towards something, so decided to have an exhibition. I had the show in the space that was later to become Talbot Gallery & Studios. It seemed an obvious move for me to set up a creative space for artists like myself starting out in their careers.
You started The Most Promising Graduate Award, do you think there is enough emphasis placed on nurturing emerging talent in gallery spaces in 2017?
When I set up The Most Promising Graduate Award 8 years ago I felt there was a need to support recent graduates with a space to create work and exhibition to show their work to the public. There are now more award opportunities for recent graduates which is great but unfortunately there are very few spaces left to exhibit. I understand that some graduates chose to set up their own collectives and organise spaces but this has a short life span for most as they find that administrative work takes on a bigger role then making their own work.
Were there any particular struggles that stood out, mountain?
I suppose it was gaining credibility with the artists that they would like to show and that they respected what I showed, that takes time I had to learn that and learn what I wanted to show, what interested me and what suited the gallery, That was my biggest aim to get that right.
Networking is often projected as one of the “golden rules” for breaking into the creative industry, but what exactly does networking mean to you?
Networking is important people say you have to go to this and this and that and I just didn’t have the hunger for it, but I see it’s very important. Go to talks, not necessarily openings. If you go to a talk you ask a question, you’re talking to the artist afterwards theres small links that are formed and some day someone will say to you lets do a show and things come from that.
You mentioned you worked closely with interns, did you ever do any internships?
No. Ive Been pretty lucky, but I think its invaluable and I would if i wanted to go into an area that i needed to learn from. Most of my interns secured a job and they would say it was invaluable because I didn’t just make them do social media and answer the phone, I would want their input, offer them shows if we had a gap. If you know at the end of the day someone isn’t taking the piss and you’re actually doing something then its really important.
What advice would you give people trying to crack into creative industry?
I think you have to be very mindful of yourself, and you have to mind yourself as well. Its a tough industry, you’re very open, you’re showing yourself, you can get caught up in whose doing this and who’s doing that and it can be soul destroying, know in your head I want to do this I’ll get on with it and make that happen maybe not this year or next but it will. If it takes 5 years what you’ve done along the way will support you. If you’re not in a space to do you’re own work, just be aware of what’s happening, not just on the Irish front.
Check out the Talbot Gallery & Studios
Words by Róisín McGannon.